Arpin, deJong Target Strong Ends to 2017 After Challenging Seattle Finals
They may not be teammates, but Loenbro Motorsports’ Steve Arpin and Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE’s Mitchell deJong are in some ways two of the most similar drivers in the Red Bull Global Rallycross paddock.
Blessed with talent behind the wheel from a young age, the Canadian and Californian have each climbed to rallycross’ highest level thanks to strong skills on both dirt and pavement. They’ve also cultivated two of the sport’s most passionate fanbases, thanks to a willingness to interact with as many fans as possible between on-track sessions.
And both of them will be looking to this year’s Los Angeles finale as a statement race, after disappointing results in last month’s doubleheader at Evergreen Speedway.
“Los Angeles is definitely our Daytona 500, if you want to call it that,” Arpin explained. “We’ve got the Pacific on three of the four sides of the track, palm trees everywhere, it’s just the most gorgeous backdrop when you’re driving into that facility. And the way the track is built, it’s such a small, tight track that you look at the times there and the gaps in the field that it puts everyone on top of each other and gives everyone a really good opportunity to be really fast and competitive.”
“LA is definitely a very special track for me,” added deJong, who calls nearby Temecula home. “I have a lot of family and friends there supporting me, so that’s always a big plus, and it’s just a classic event in a beautiful location right on the water. There’s beautiful weather, and it’s a really good track as well, so it’s one of the biggest events—and certainly one of the best ones.”
Coming off a fourth place finish on Saturday, Arpin was poised to contend for another top-five and potentially return to the podium on Sunday when tire issues dropped him in the pack in the race’s final laps. Falling to seventh widened the gap to 74 points behind championship leader Scott Speed, allowing Arpin to maintain his mathematical eligibility for the title by only the slimmest of margins.
“One of the things about our group—one of my strengths as a driver and the way the guys prepare my car for me—is we’re typically one of the easiest guys on tires out there, so that’s one of the things that I think gives us a little bit of an advantage going into this race. We were absolutely shocked at the end of the Seattle race – it’s the first time we’ve actually pulled out of a race for blowing a tire like that since I’ve started rallycross, to be honest.
“At first I was a little bit nervous going into Los Angeles, but then when we kind of dug into it and figured out what actually went on there it’s got my confidence back for sure.”
deJong, meanwhile, would love to put the second half of the season behind him. He missed the Indianapolis main event entirely due to mechanical issues, and could only finish ninth and eighth in the two Seattle finals. His first Supercar heat win in Atlantic City notwithstanding, it’s been a frustrating drop to fifth in points for the 2014 GRC Lites champion—one that he’d love to reverse at the site of his Supercar debut one season ago.
“Certainly you’ll get that bad luck in anything, but you have to go out there and do your job each time,” he noted. “At least from my standpoint, we were having a really good race on Saturday in Seattle—we had a car issue that put us out of contention for the fight for the podium, so you just have to take the little positives there. The fact that we were fighting for the podium there, and that we had a good run in qualifying, are things that you just have to take to the next race, or the next round of heats.
“(With) things like that, you always just try to bounce back and stay positive. Hopefully, in one race everything all comes together nicely and you get a really good result out of it.”
History suggests that the Port of Los Angeles may be good to these two drivers; Arpin had a podium here last year, and deJong took two (including a victory) in the inaugural event as a Lites driver. But with a championship battle unfolding around them, the path to the top step of the podium will be anything but easy.
“I’d love to win it again, especially in a Supercar—that would be absolutely amazing,” deJong continued. “We’ll do our best to finish the season off strong, and hopefully we can get up there.”
“Obviously we’d all like to finish the year off on a high note in the race,” Arpin concluded. “I was really, really confident when we went there last year, but we had a flat tire at the first corner of the main so that was a bummer. But I’m really, really looking forward to coming back again this year.”
Red Bull Global Rallycross Los Angeles
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Supercar Round 12 Finals: October 14, 4:30PM ET, NBC
Lites Round 12 Finals: October 19, 4:30PM ET, NBCSN
Photo credit: Louis Yio